'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
NEW STUDY: MIDDLE-AGE IS DEPRESSING
Did you see the recent news story about middle-aged depression? A study of two million people from 80 different countries found a very distinct U-shaped pattern, with most people being happy as young adults, then dipping toward depression during their 40s, and finally regaining happiness as senior citizens.
The study found that people in their 40s, the middle-aged years, begin to understand that many of their life’s dreams will never be realized, which could be the cause of emotional sadness.
The study’s co-author, Andrew Oswald, noted, “Only in their 50s do most people emerge from the low period. But encouragingly, by the time you are 70, if you are physically fit then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old.”
OK, I’ve got a few bones to pick with this study. First, since when has “middle-aged” been defined as the 40s? Hasn’t anyone heard that “40 is the new 30”? Or “50 is the new 40”?
Sure, maybe back when I was still in my 30s it was acceptable to call the 40s the middle-aged years, but now that I’ve already blasted right through my 40s (where did that decade go?!!) and am now in my 50s, we need a new definition of the term “middle-aged.” I suggest: whatever age is five years older than me—regardless of how old I get.
Second, I was so busy during my 40s, I didn’t have a chance to get depressed and experience a mid-life crisis. So I’m wondering if it’s still OK to have one here in my 50s. If it’s too late for me to lust after a red sports car and dye my hair black (or is it a black sports car and dye my hair red?), then that would be very depressing. I’m sure my wife is perfectly fine with the idea that I completely skip the whole mid-life crisis thing, but I don’t want to throw off the statistics. If I’m suppose to have one, then let’s get on with it.
Finally, let’s review Oswald’s claim that when you are 70, you become “as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old.” Now, I can remember when I was 20—vaguely. It’s true that I was very, very happy. However, in recent decades I’ve had to renounce most everything that made me happy back then, as those activities not only violated acceptable standards of morality, religion, and federal narcotic laws, but oftentimes violated the very laws of physics, too.
If a 70-year-old even attempted to achieve a 20-year-old’s level of happiness, he would be in traction within about 30 seconds. It just doesn’t make sense. Also, exactly where did Oswald find those 70-year-olds in his study? I know a fair number of folks in their 70s, and nothing personal, but when I’m with them the observation “they’re as happy as a 20-year-old” never pops into my head.
The explanation, I suspect, can be found in that little phrase buried in Oswald’s quotation. He said a 70-year-old is as happy as a 20-year-old, “if you are physically fit.”
Ah ha. Well, there’s the answer. I’m 50 and I feel like everything is falling apart right before my eyes (eyes which, luckily, can no longer focus clearly on anything within five feet). When I complain, people who are 70 just laugh and say to me, “If you think your body is breaking down now, just wait till you’re MY age!!”
As far as I can tell, most 70-year-olds are too busy complaining about those carefree and healthy 20-year-olds to be as happy as a carefree and healthy 20-year-old. It’s enough to make a middle-aged guy depressed.
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